(I remember so much more, now. I remember things I thought I'd never remember. I remember why it happened.) Why it all happened. Why I had to be this way.

I don't want to. I know I don't want to, but I know I have to. I have to smile and say goodbye--

The night was a crisp mockery of an ordered universe, stars strewn haphazardly across the cosmos and music pulsing in the air with the restrained ecstasy of celebration.

They were standing on the balcony with all the airs of a comfortable couple. Except for the careful way he avoided her eyes--except for the roiling unrest that years of control made invisible. But he was seeing the end of those years--

And he was beginning to remember all sorts of things--beginning to remember, and about to forget even more.

Because I'm a memory, or you think so--someone thinks so. Some kind of ghost that won't go away even though it's daylight. (Hyne, I hate memories. I don't have a problem with losing them. They're useless; they tell you things you hate and you can't change, or things you want and can't have back.) But you need them... you need them to tell you who you are, to keep you sane.

I don't have a choice any more. Don't you get it?

He glanced over and followed her gaze upwards, where a flash of light was arcing across the starfield. It reminded him of crying, somehow--for the few moments before it disappeared, fading away into nothingness.

(Into memory.)

His heart was beating faster and he wasn't sure what it was. It was a kind of adrenaline, perhaps--an adrenaline born out of a primal survival urge, or out of the base terror that accompanied leaving that survival behind. It felt as if he was plummeting, lightheaded and reeling from something that had gotten in under his defenses like an illness or a wound, leeching away at him.

Seventeen years you've needed me and now what's to say you won't again? (But I trust her--I need her.) And what's to say she needs you? Loves you? (She--)

She looked at him, and his eyes were drawn inexorably to hers. Without thought, without will, without choice, like falling and drowning all of it all of it

she asked, and smiled.

(Remember?) he wondered, and answered.

She smiled and he smiled (without thought), so automatically that is almost seemed natural. She smiled and in the same motion like an act by the same will he had smiled and stepped in one step closer.

I remember.

He was afraid.

I can't control it. Of course I can't control it, falling and dying and passing through time--that's why they call it falling in love and it's not so much the falling that scares me it's that last sudden stop

(I'm not afraid.)

Deathly, desperately afraid.

It was an unstoppable process. The way she sidled closer, the way he leaned in, it was as if it had all been decided on long ago and now the only thing to do was to realize it.

Realize how out of his league he had come, how beyond himself he was. Action after action had lead him here to this one inevitable moment, even in denial of everything he had taught himself, everything he had accepted, everything he was. Despite what he wanted or thought he wanted, despite what seemed right or comfortable, he was still here--Without thought, without will, without choice.

Closing his eyes.

Breath on his lips that wasn't his, shivers down his spine. Something wonderfully impossible and beautifully terrible. Something he didn't know how to react to, that pulled him along with the current in ways he couldn't control.

Leaning in, just a little closer.

A little closer and I'll--

Seventeen years you've needed me and now you'll let me go let me die for the sake of


Filled with passion, compassion, but strangely empty besides.

(Help me,) he couldn't ask aloud.

...she probably thought she was.

Author's Notes:

Apologies for the preceding weirdness. Anyone mentally or emotionally scarred can help themselves to the plate of cookies and sedatives over by the door.

Yes, that's his iron discipline talking in the italics-sans-parentheses.